Beacon Hill News in Brief
Jay Gonzalez holds a three-point edge over Bob Massie in a new Democratic gubernatorial primary poll, which is perhaps more notable for quantifying the major problem facing both candidates — their lack of a resonance so far with voters.
The WBUR poll, taken June 22-25, showed Gonzalez up 16-13 over Massie, with 61 percent of the 418 Democratic primary respondents telling pollsters they don't know who they would support or refusing to answer the question. Six percent said they would prefer "some other candidate" and 4 percent opted for "would not vote."
When undecided primary voters were asked to state a preference based on which way they were leaning, Gonzalez led Massie by a 21-15 margin.
The poll was conducted for WBUR by the MassINC Polling Group.
In the contested primary between Secretary of State William Galvin and challenger Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor, Galvin led 46 percent to 17 percent. The Brighton Democrat is seeking a seventh four-year term as state secretary.
Both branches now on record for higher tobacco-purchase age
The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday agreed to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21, ban e-cigarettes in places where smoking is already prohibited and ban the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies.
A similar bill cleared the House in May, and if Gov. Charlie Baker signs the bill into law, Massachusetts would become the sixth state to refuse to sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 21, according to the American Lung Association. Baker has said he is "conceptually" supportive of the age increase.
The bill (S 2571) cleared the Senate 33-3, with Republican Sens. Ryan Fattman, Donald Humason and Dean Tran voting in opposition.
"Tobacco use and nicotine addiction remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Massachusetts, and tobacco use and nicotine addiction is responsible for more than $4 billion annually in health care costs in Massachusetts," Sen. Jason Lewis said. He also said raising the minimum age to 21 is "a proven strategy to get tobacco and nicotine products out of high school social networks and away from youth."
Lewis said 170 of the state's 351 cities and towns have already raised the tobacco-buying age to 21 and that 71 percent of the state's population lives in a community where the age is 21.
DeLeo doesn't rule out revenue markup in budget
Two top House leaders on Thursday did not rule out marking up the fiscal year 2019 revenue estimate as part of ongoing negotiations on an annual budget bill for the fiscal year that starts Sunday.
This week, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report suggesting that budget negotiators might be tempted to increase the fiscal 2019 tax revenue estimate, and in the process solve some of their spending differences, based on strong fiscal 2018 collections.
"We're still in discussion about the entire budget and where we're at. We're not nailed down to anything right now, so I can't tell you anything right now. The conversations are continuing," Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez told the News Service after a caucus Thursday.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Thursday agreed that upping the revenue estimate for next fiscal year — it's currently set at $27.594 billion — is "a possibility" but declined to say anything more about conference committee negotiations.
Tax collections for fiscal 2018 would end up $879 million above estimates if June's monthly benchmark is hit. That would mean total fiscal 2018 collections would wind up just
$53 million short of the fiscal 2019 budget tax revenue estimate.
— State House News Service